By: Eloise Golden
B.S. Metallurgical Engineering (Mineral Processing & Extractive) – Colorado School of Mines 1979
As the daughter of a United States Navy man I lived overseas half my life before I graduated from high school. Everywhere we moved the first thing Mom would do was put all of us girls in Girl Scouts and the boys in Boy Scouts. I grew to love Girl Scouts and am proud not only to say this is my 50th year as a Girl Scout but that Girl Scouting made me who I am today. The goal of Girl Scouting is to create leaders of young women with the courage, confidence and character to become good citizens of the world and teach them they are able and capable of doing anything to which they put their minds. I embraced that philosophy and ended up becoming an engineer in the exceptionally male-dominated field of mining!
When I was a sophomore in high school I started trying to figure out what I wanted to do after graduation. I was considered a nerd! At that time no one called it STEM – it was just science and math! I loved the new computer we had at school (it used BASIC – a computer language most don’t even remember!) and I absolutely LOVED math and science – especially algebra and trigonometry! I asked a group of engineers (my first mentors) that summer, “What can I do where I can use science and math?” They told me about engineering. Prior to that I had NO idea what an engineer did even though I was about to embark in that career. What I was too young and ignorant to know was there were very few women in engineering and even fewer in the mineral industry.
After being accepted at the Colorado School of Mines I visited the school. I clearly recall being asked whether or not I realized there were mostly men at the school. I said, yes, I had read the school statistics. Then they asked if I was aware that all degrees were related to mining or petroleum engineering and I said yes, I had read the handbook! There were so few women at the school they wanted to be sure I knew what I was getting myself into! CSM was a very difficult school both to gain entrance and also from which to pass and graduate. I firmly believe without the engineering mentors I met while in high school, the confidence I gained in Girl Scouting, and the encouragement from my parents, I would never have become an engineer.
My very first professional mentor was a man. In Sheryl Sandburg’s (COO of Facebook) book, “Lean In”, she encourages the idea that women are great as mentors for women, but it’s okay to have a man as a mentor too! My first mentor, Bill Brooks, had high expectations of me and never gave me a break because I was a woman. I remember the first big project he gave me that I failed miserably – I gave him some excuse but he said he didn’t want excuses, he wanted results. That was a tough lesson to swallow but set me up for success the rest of my life.
That is why I love mentoring young women and most especially Girl Scouts. I am a huge advocate for S.T.E.M. and scouting gives me a great opportunity to spread the word!! It gave me the courage to go after my dreams and receive my excellent education, but without my mentor I would not have become an expert in the extraction of copper, gold and silver! I loved being in the mining industry, I loved the notoriety I received because I was one of few women in mining, but I also loved knowing the accolades I received were well deserved and because of my hard work. I recently wrote to my mentor, Bill, and told him what a profound impact he had on my professional life. He was humbled and moved and grateful I had taken the time to let him know how much his support meant to me. I can only hope that someday I will find I have done the same for another young woman!